Google Inc. has hired Internet pioneer Vinton Cerf to float more ideas and develop products, adding another weapon to the online search engine leader's rapidly growing arsenal of intellect.
Cerf's defection from MCI Inc., announced Thursday, represents the latest coup for Mountain View, Calif.-based Google, which has been amassing more brainpower as its payroll has nearly quadrupled to 4,200 workers during the last two years.
Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt said that few of the company's recent hires had been as significant as Cerf, widely regarded as one of the Internet's creators because of his seminal work developing the network's essential communications protocols at Stanford University in the 1970s.
"He is one of the most important people alive today," said Schmidt, who has been friends with Cerf for more than 20 years. "Vint has put his heart and soul into making the Internet happen. I know he is going to jump right in here and start shoveling out new ideas for Google."
When he starts work at Google on Oct. 3, Cerf's title will be chief Internet evangelist, but he aims to be more than a figurehead or detached visionary.
"What I have done in the past is not going to be important at Google," Cerf said. "What's important at Google is what you are doing today and what you are going to do tomorrow. That's the metric I will be measured by."
Cerf will remain chairman of the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers, the oversight agency for domain names.
He also will continue as a visiting scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he has been focusing on a very Google-like project -- trying to figure out a way to connect the Internet to outer space.
Cerf, 62, has spent the last 11 years at MCI, most recently as senior vice president of technology strategy.
Cerf expects to spend much of his time developing applications as Google continues to supplement the search engine that is core to the 7-year-old company. In recent years, Google has released free software to organize computer files, sort digital photos, generate maps and conduct Internet-based phone calls and text chats. It also has launched an e-mail service called Gmail.